Compliance, conformance and reconciliation are all common terms in the mining industry— but that doesn’t mean they are easy to achieve.
These standard industry terms typically refer to how operations might have performed over a period of time, generally on a monthly basis. Furthermore, similar terminology such as non-conformance, conformance to plan and compliance plan are often used interchangeably in the industry. By placing some rigor around that definition, conformance is ‘moving material where we promised we were going to and in the right amount’. Conversely, non-conformance refers to moving material from a different location and time than was originally planned.
When assessing why operations fall into non-compliance, it is often due to the many assumptions made in the long-term plan. Assumptions can include equipment utilisation, travel time, condition of the material assumptions etc. What is often overlooked is the array of operational moving parts that impact the ability of site personnel to meet those assumptions. Planners often get caught trying to position a piece of equipment to attain the kind of performance the assumptions were made on. However, there are thousands of conditions which exist in the operation that could affect the ability of planners to make the assumed plan number. As such, the decision is often made that any plan that is signed off on is effectively unachievable. This is an all too common scenario for operations of all sizes.
The problem with outdated software
All too often, operations don’t deliver on the early stage plans and aren’t equipped to plan to the required level of detail effectively with the current approach to technology. Unfortunately, budgets are generally based on the long-term plan that has been produced. When planning engineers start going through the process and conducting variance analyses on a monthly basis, they can be left trying to recover the gap between what was stated could be achieved and what was actually achieved. This results in a loop of endlessly trying to make up for deficiencies from the previous period in the current one. The more we fall into this loop the more we are forced to deviate further from the plan in the following periods until shifts are filled with nothing more than working, planning, replanning and readjusting. An impossible task of trying to meet a plan that was unattainable from the start.
Historically, the industry has addressed this issue by looking at ways to improve planning processes or make better, more accurate assumptions. However, these are not viable solutions and will never create a perfect plan due to inherent operational variabilities. A mindset change is required in the industry so we can get better at adapting our plans to compensate for operational variability. The focus needs to be on making changes to how operations are managed, making adjustments on the shorter-term planning basis to achieve increased plan compliance once the end of the month rolls around. While logic would suggest this is what we should have been doing from the outset, previous outdated technology meant it wasn’t something that was possible to do—until now.
Fundamentals for achieving compliance success
A solution that enables us to respond more effectively to the rapid and unforeseen changes that happen on site on a daily basis instead of waiting until the end of the month to accommodate changes and reconcile is essential to achieving compliance success. To be successful at mine compliance planning, a short-term software solution needs to have the following ingredients:
- Enterprise integration
This solution must have the ability to connect to existing systems to provide a holistic view of performance on a live basis. A short-term, integrated enterprise mine planning solution is a key component for effective compliance, ensuring live date from multiple systems and sources is connected to a central source to provide context and accuracy in decision-making.
- Live performance tracker
To encourage compliance to plan, it is essential that real-time trackers inform planners on whether or not they are adhering or deviating from the plan. A mechanism must be in place that enables mine planners to make real-time adjustments to the plan. This ensures site personnel can get back on track by the end of the shift, or prepare to be operating as close as possible to the original plan for the next shift.
- Simple adjustment tools
It is imperative the software solution has the capability to easily adjust plans if the tracker informs personnel of any deviation from the plan. For optimal results, a mine planner could also make use of the historical data and create a behavioral profile to provide operational staff with a better indication of what should be occurring during the course of the shift. The planner can then model that against a piece of equipment, shift, operator or crew member to provide even better accuracy to the assumptions of how something or someone will perform against production in the future, whether something is more likely to be behind, on, or ahead of target.
In the past, there have been solutions which encompassed one of these key components. However, recent breakthroughs in scheduling technology provides us the opportunity to not only pull information from multiple systems to form a single source of the truth, but simultaneously track performance and adjust plans to help improve compliance. Importantly, a short-term planning tool shouldn’t be a modified long-term planning solution. To achieve planning adherence, a different approach is needed. It has to work in a short-term space where assumptions are minimised and flexibility to make changes and adjustments in a realistic way is maximised. Instead of being driven by assumptions, the solution needs to be driven by what the performance should be doing on a live basis.
That’s where an intelligent short-term scheduling solution such as RPMGlobal’s XECUTE is differentiating itself from the other offerings on the market. It’s been built from the ground up as a short-term planning tool that doesn’t rely on planning assumptions to go and carry its plans and execution forward. It’s based on actual behavior that we expect from our diggers, from our crew and from our pit. XECUTE uses that behavior to go and create an environment that lets users make quick changes and adjustments in the immediate space, while still providing long-term visibility and forecasting of up to three months.